MARIETTA - On the heels of a devastating fire that destroyed his entire inventory at the Riverside Artists Gallery two years ago, Geoff Schenkel had to decide whether to give up his love for art for a 9-to-5 job, or give it another try. He decided to try again, and with partner Todd Morrow, founded Resolve Studios at 332 Franklin St. in Marietta.
With the aid of resources like the Ohio Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Resolve Studios rose from the ashes of that fire. The SBDC is one of many resources in the area for those looking to start or grow a business, or simply find a new job. Many of those resources are often overlooked by those who need them most.
"Just two years ago in March we lost everything. Now we're starting over again stronger than before," Schenkel said.
Through guidance from business professionals at the SBDC, Resolve Studios now not only handles murals but also sculptures, art demonstrations and a framing shop.
Resolve Studios has handled murals such as the Ohio Bicentennial mural in Harmar Village and the Lakefield Mural beside the Mid-Ohio Valley Players Theatre, also on Putnam Street.
Schenkel and Morrow are currently working on a mural at the Lafayette Hotel, demonstrations at the Parkersburg Art Center and an artist residency sculpture at Belpre Elementary School.
"We're working in three different cities and two different states all simultaneously because we've had the assistance of thinking through these different projects," Schenkel said.
As they were working to develop their business, Schenkel said he and Morrow were amazed to discover the resources available to help, particularly the SBDC.
"I just did not know that there was any kind of service like that available in the Mid-Ohio Valley," Schenkel said.
The SBDC offers a wide range of guidance on starting up a business, ranging from a simple checklist of questions to ask yourself about the business to classes on marketing, finance and entrepreneurship, said Pamela Lankford, director of the SBDC.
Many of the resources available through the SBDC, and in the valley in general, aren't as well known or utilized as they could be, she noted.
"There are a ton of resources out there," Lankford said.
One valuable source of information that's often overlooked is the Washington County Public Library, particularly the online data banks they offer, Lankford said.
Through the library, prospective business owners can find free legal forms, information on trade associations and industry statistics.
A group known as SCORE is another asset to prospective business owners. SCORE is a group of executives that provide counseling on industry strategies. The group used to be comprised of retired executives, and was known as the Service Core of Retired Executives, but now includes working executives and uses the acronym as its namesake.
"They've got decades of experience they can then lend to a business," Lankford said.
A partnership with area institutes of learning like Marietta College and Washington State Community College has resulted in further aid for people looking to open their own business.
The SBDC can connect prospective owners with a student to help with micro loans through Marietta College's Business Consulting program.
A marketing plan is another aspect where connecting an entrepreneur with a student can benefit both parties. The student has an impressive addition to a resume, while the business receives the marketing strategy developed during the course, Lankford said.
Not only are resources available to help people as they start up a business, there are also plenty for those looking for a job, noted Candy Nelson, supervisor with Washington County Job and Family Services. The Washington County Career Center offers adult education classes, and Job and Family Services will take applications to try and match with prospective employers, she said.
As people are trying to find jobs, one of the areas Nelson said she has seen cause the most difficulty is past criminal history.
While not everything can be removed from an individual's record, there are proceedings available to get certain criminal acts, particularly old ones, expunged from a record, Nelson said.
"That's a big barrier for employment in our area," Nelson said.
Southeastern Ohio Legal Services offers a free legal clinic on the third Wednesday of each month and can help with those proceedings, Nelson explained. Job and Family Services will be able to help with that as well in the fall as Nelson hopes to have a program in place in October.
Jobs Etc., a division of Washington-Morgan Community Action, can help residents with a resume and the website ohiomeansjobs.com also provides guidance, Nelson said. Community Action also houses the Washington County One Stop, which aims to have all the resources necessary for a job-seeker, said Kathy Lott-Gramkow, director of employment and training for Community Action.
The One Stop has computers, newspapers, phones and fax machines for residents to use while they look for a job. Help is also offered on how to put together a resume and it can be printed onto resume paper. Lott-Gramkow said there is also help available with interviews, including mock interviews, through the center.
"If an individual needs to look at some kind of training, we can help connect them with the training providers," she said.
Specific demographic groups, such as veterans, can also receive additional aid. On May 22 there is a special job fair being held in at West Virginia University-Parkersburg entitled Hiring our Heroes, aimed to assist veterans looking for work.
A partnership with Washington State, the Washington County Career Center and Community Action culminated in the program Network Alliance.
Network Alliance, a series of workshops about interview techniques and social networking, meets every Thursday at Washington State.